Researchers have determined that intervention by parents in early ages can improve the symptoms of autism.

Early intervention processes based on parent-child communication were discovered to have a long-term effect on the symptoms. The trials were randomized, and the results show an important margin in symptom relief, prompting the need for more scientific development based on the discovery. The study was led by Professor Andrew Pickles, from Kings College London. The idea was to establish a link between early-age intervention and long-term autism symptoms.

Boy, parents, autism
“About 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network,” says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Image credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Helping autistic children fit in society

The technique employed is known as Preschool Autism Communication Trial (PACT), where children aged 2 to 4 diagnosed with autism were intervened in different clinics throughout the United Kingdom. The trials were measured against their autism severity score, among other measurements for the level of social inability displayed by a child with autism. 

152 children with autism were submitted to behavioral and communication therapy, where 59 were assigned to PACT intervention and 62 to regular treatment. They were followed for ten years. When the participants were subjected to the autism severity evaluations, those that received treatment showed a reduction of symptoms deemed as “significant” over the course of the study, where 55 percent of children were labeled as severely autistic, compared to 46 percent after six years.

Autism follows people through their whole life

According to the research, at least 1 percent of all children suffer from autism. Because autism has so many implications on correct development and cost of care, any early treatment that helps alleviate the condition will be deemed as highly beneficial for both the patient and their family. Although scientists know that early treatment could alter the long-term development of the disease, until now there has not been any feasible proof of this theory.

On the other hand, there is proof that psychological intervention in the form of communication, symbolic play, social interaction, and engagement with people can improve the condition of autism. The report presented by Professor Pickles cites six previous studies, which although small, can be considered of high significance because they suggest that intervention compared to control cases does improve the symptoms of autism in the long term.

The children involved presented severe autism, as they had difficulty even communicating with their parents. The research proposes that parents must work hard on improving the social skills of their child.

“We’re taking the parent’s interaction with the child and taking it to a ‘super’ level, these children need more than ‘good enough’, they need something exceptional,” Dr. Catherine Aldred, a speech therapist, told the BBC.

Dr. Aldred pointed out that the changes will be perceivable, although it takes time and effort to communicate with the child, rather than just pressuring them to act correctly. Parents are supposed to be the person a child trusts the most, this is truer than ever for autistic children, as it appears that they must be the best companions of their child on their early autism stages.

Source: The Lancet